Friday, March 31, 2006

This should be interesting...

Looks like I’ll be off on a cross-country drive in about two weeks. A very good friend of mine is moving to Arizona for work and I’ve volunteered to assist with the relocation, mainly serving the part of co-driver and navigator for the trip. I’ve always though such a long distance drive would be an exciting thing to do and the beauty of this adventure will be that we’re driving only one way; I’ll fly back to Norfolk.

Supposedly it’s about a 36 hour drive from Norfolk to Phoenix, which we will divide up over the course of three to four days. The more leisurely pace will allow us to stop and see anything of great interest along the way which will make the trip a lot more fun than simply trying to get there as fast as we can.

Must pick up a road atlas this weekend and start planning the route and marking things we may way to see on the trip.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


1. Just now back from some errands and a run to the grocery store. As always seems to happen when I have a lot of bags (grocery or otherwise) to carry upstairs, there was absolutely no parking anywhere near my building. Two blocks was about as close as I could get today. Two long blocks and three trips back and forth from the Jeep to my third floor apartment, so the hell with going to the gym today. I’ve already had my workout.

2. Went to Target this morning for assorted things, including some additional cleaning supplies and some assorted odds and ends. Though far from being a truly exciting acquisition, I bought a new mop today. Somehow my old one never made it to my new apartment when I moved here back in August of 2003. Since then I’ve been scrubbing floors the old fashioned way: on hands and knees with a sponge. Obviously this purchase was long overdue and timely in that it’s time for a serious bout of spring cleaning.

3. Have officially given up on reading “1421: The Year China Discovered America.” Will most likely revisit this book when I’m more in the mood for…umm….fiction. Have switched gears and am now devouring Ernst Mayr’s “What Evolution Is.” (Creationist Alert: With the words “fiction” and “evolution” in the same paragraph and within a specific contextual setting, I’m intentionally leaving the door open for your commentary.)

4. Having a small dinner thing tonight for a friend or two (provided pager duty doesn’t interfere with my plans). Am making seafood gumbo which I prepare the traditional way (e.g., not exactly all that healthy) and (probably because it’s not all that healthy) has always been well received. Shrimp, scallops, crab meat, clams, andoulle sausage, bacon, and ham. I feel a heart attack coming on.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wading Into The Fray

Only on the rarest of occasions do I delve into the political world on here, yet like most of us I do keep up with current events and have strong opinions about this or that. If I had to place myself along the political spectrum, ranging from far right to its antithesis on the left, I would certainly rank closer to the latter end, though my exact placement would shift a few notches here or there depending on the particular issue. Even with this issue-specific variation, I am still overall well within the liberal (or should I say “progressive?“) camp. Some of my friends joke that I’m a New England liberal living a little further south than the rest of them. A Howard Dean with a Tidewater Virginia accent.

It’s difficult watching the news these days. From my perspective (and you are certainly free to disagree here), the United States has left its path and is wandering about in the moral and political wilderness, coming ever closer to a dangerous precipice beyond which there will be no easy return. We’ve become an international bully and the world (rightly so) hates us for it. The revelation of domestic spying is met with minimal outcry. The national debt exceeds the age of the Universe for having the most zeros in a number. Our leaders have set themselves above the rule of law. Our inept (and probably illegal) wars in the Middle East. Torture and human rights violations. Disagreeing with the President is synonymous with aiding the enemy. Greed. Corruption. Dick Cheney shoots an old man in the face. The list goes on ad infinitum. There are times when I am ashamed to be an American. My patriotism is on life support and it’s in danger of coding.

Now, before the Gestapo…err… Secret Service breaks down my door and hauls me off to languish the rest of my days in some prison, or a bunch of louts on here fill my inbox with vituperative missives, I want to add that I do not hate America. I dislike the path we’re on, what we have become. There is a fundamental difference here that the more insightful readers (most likely Democrats) will readily ascertain. America is a land of great promise and opportunity for those willing to work to achieve their dreams. We are (or at least were) a beacon of freedom and liberty, a model system for other countries to emulate (if they choose to do so under their own volition) and a haven for those oppressed the world over. With our immeasurable wealth we have the innate capacity to provide essential services for all those within our borders who are in need. I see the potential of America being a land of freedom and liberty, not fear and suspicion. A land of responsibility and humility, not arrogance and corruption. Compassion, not greed. And it is in these ideals I place my hope during these dark and misguided days.

We as a country can do much better, both domestically and internationally. Can the Democrats do better as they claim? I certainly hope this is the case and honestly don’t see where they could possibly do any worse than Bush & Co. My concern is that by the time there is a change in Washington (and I’m pretty certain there will be given the trend of poll numbers), the downward spiral will have continued to the point of no easy return. If such is the case, it will require some difficult choices to once again regain our path and that is the true test of patriotism.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Political Insight

This site is a wonderful diversion during these dark political times. The site's creator may be closer to the truth than we all realize.....

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Afternoon coffee and a touch of anxiety

Among the errands this morning, I ran out to the Barnes and Noble in Virginia Beach where I spent a couple hours perusing the many tempting offerings on the shelves. I came away with four books, which wasn’t all that bad considering the number that piqued my interest. Two of the acquisitions were general biology study guides which I need for my forthcoming comprehensive examinations. Sure they contain the same material as in my general biology textbook (as well as the textbooks for general ecology, evolution, etc.), but the advantage is that the information is presented in a more compact, concise, and easily review able manner. The textbooks will provide a more in-depth review of the material if such a need arises, but as for now, a generalized overview is what I need. The last thing I have time to do now is to review all of my old biology textbooks from cover to cover.

The comps have me a little worried since my graduate committee can pretty much grill me on anything (and here I emphasize ANYTHING) biological in nature, technically whether you’ve had a class in that particular subject or not. I’m not worried at all about topics such as evolution, ecology, systematics, or biogeography, and to a lesser degree, entomology as these are counted among my biological interests and to one degree or another tie in with my thesis research. If the examination was limited to these areas, it would be a piece of cake. However, such will not be the case and it will such topics as cellular biology, genetics, and various system processes (Krebs cycle? What the hell was that?) that will be my doom. I absolutely loathe genetics (though I do realize that it’s the foundation for practically everything in biology) and am rather alarmed by what I don’t remember from genetics class a few years back. So it is evident that I have my work cut out for me.

Morning Coffee

Up a bit later this morning than usual due to the annoyance of the last night’s neighborhood block party (the annual Greening of Ghent). The bands were over around ten, but the large and boisterous crowd didn’t disperse until much later. All attempts at sleep were thwarted by the noise, so I l just settled in with a book and glass of wine and waited for the acoustic storm to pass, which of course it eventually did around midnight or shortly thereafter.

I’ve never quite understood the attraction of such affairs. Large, jostling crowds growing ever more intoxicated, green beer (it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all), loud music, and so on hold such little appeal for me that I would rather do almost anything else than take part in such senseless frivolity. Even worse are the aftereffects: cups and bottles and trash scattered all over the area, pools of vomit, and the occasional vandalized car. City workers are going to be very busy today cleaning up the neighborhood.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bits and Pieces

Much of this weekend’s leisure time was spent perusing my old collection of colonial era artifacts , the boxes containing which I procured when visiting the parental units yesterday morning. I haven’t looked through these boxes in eight or nine years and it was nice sorting through again the material remnants of a long ago era, those broken pieces of porcelains, earthenware pottery, wine bottles, pipe stems, and so on that I so eagerly collected as a youth. When other kids were out playing baseball or some other typical pursuit, I was canvassing the plowed fields behind our home, walking up and down the rows in search of any little fragment of material evidence of what used to be on our land beyond the depths of memory or family lore.

To be sure, such pieces of broken this or that hold no monetary value (or little value in general for that matter) as they are at their heart nothing more than old trash. Yet they are also a link to a bygone era; each piece has its own story (European manufacture, trans-Atlantic shipping, etc) and collectively they tell a story of a past way of life and the forgotten people who inhabited that particular piece of land long before the American Revolution. In this sense, they are much more than just refuse, they are a collective door to the past, waiting for the right person with the right key to unlock their secrets.

Spring Fever

Feels more like May than the reality of mid-March. The sunny, warm weather has drawn all sorts of people out into the neighborhood. People coming and going, sitting outside at the coffee shops, or having lunch out on the patios at any one of the neighborhood restaurants: it certainly seems like spring has arrived.

And here I sit in my apartment…but not for too long. Just finished a light lunch and am now working my way though a cup of coffee and a cigarette or three before heading back out to enjoy the day. I was out the door fairly early this morning for a trip to the gym and had a solid workout. My body is both energized and tired from today’s gym foray, but it’s a good feeling.

Once I finish off this coffee, I may walk down to the grocery store for a few things. I don’t have much to buy, so this means the walk home will be pleasant. Last week the grocery list was long and it turned out that walking was a mistake. Far too many bags and my arms felt like they were going to fall off even before I got a third of the way home.

Reading is also on the agenda this afternoon. Possibly here at home, or over at the coffee shop. I’ve almost given up on my current book: 1421: The Year China Discovered America though I’m not quite halfway through. It’s an interesting book and well-written, but the evidence presented to support the author’s claim (as suggested by the title) is thus far very weak (and in some situations way off the mark) and due to this I’m having a problem going much further than where I currently am. Perhaps it will get better if I can only muster the fortitude to keep pushing along.

Anyway…off to enjoy the weather.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Not Dead

No, I'm not dead. Just haven't gotten around to posting lately. No particular reason.... just haven't felt like posting. Heck, I haven't really been online all that much lately either.

So anyway...

It's a warm, spring-like Saturday afternoon. Not much on the agenda the rest of the day save for a possible foray to the gym this evening. I'm trying to cherish these relatively lazy weekends since the final season of field research will start in just over a month and will occupy practically every weekend until October. Annoyhing, yes, but also tolerable if I keep in mind the finality of this season.

At any rate....nothing much going on. Just wanted to fire off a quick post.